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Poop and Trash Piling up at American Climbing Areas

Many of America’s popular climbing areas are suffering during the government shutdown in American at the start of 2019. Poop and trash are overflowing from restrooms and public areas.

Many national parks have remained open during the shutdown but the parks are severely understaffed.

California’s Joshua Tree National Park will be closing campgrounds amid health and safety concerns over near-capacity pit toilets. Joshua Tree is a busy climbing area in winter with more than 792,000 acres of national park between Palm Springs to the south and town of Joshua Tree to the north.

Due to the government shutdown, the Park is very crowded right now and Park staffing is at a bare minimum. The last thing the Park needs is too many well-meaning citizens showing up and taxing the infrastructure further. We ask that you only come up if you were planning to already. We are willing to loan out litter sticks and other supplies to anyone that would like to clean at any time during the shutdown. Any trash needs to be transported out of the Park and disposed of properly. Bags left out will be ripped apart by the wildlife. There are two informal cleanups on Jan. 2nd. One meeting at the Glacier Point/Highway 41 junction at 9:00 am and the other meeting at the Village Store starting at about 8:00 am, with Dakota and some of his friends who would like to focus on three areas: 4 Mile Trail/Swinging Bridge, Bridalveil Falls Parking Area and Happy Isles. The idea is to bag trash up and transport it to the Mariposa dump. 30 people are probably more than enough for these areas. If more show up, we will have supplies available for use, but only so much vehicle space to transport out of the Park. It has been great to see so many passionate conversations surrounding this issue. We don’t feel this is a political issue, but more of a human one. We didn’t realize that so many people would share this information, though maybe we should have. This is not an official event and too many volunteers may actually hinder the cause. We don’t want to make the problem worse. What would be more helpful is if there were smaller efforts on a daily basis. Even a small group of folks cleaning up trash sends a strong message to visitors and may be more effective. This is only the second time the Park has stayed open during a government shutdown that we know of; services are drastically reduced. Not only is trash removal stopped, but many of the restrooms are closed too. Currently, there are not many more services than you would find in a Wilderness Area. If you are not scared off yet, contact us through our website Yosemiteclimbing.org for supplies. Thank you, Ken Yager + Yose Facelift Note: the photo is illustrative and not current. ?: Tom Evans

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“The park is being forced to take this action for health and safety concerns as vault toilets reach capacity,” the park service said. “In addition to human waste in public areas, driving off road and other infractions that damage the resource are becoming a problem.” The National Park Service also said the shutdown prevented it from making staff available to “provide guidance, assistance, maintenance, or emergency response.”

“Any entry onto NPS property during this period of federal government shutdown is at the visitor’s sole risk.” the park service said this week. Trash collection has stopped along with road and walkway maintenance.

Yosemite, the nation’s third most-visited national park and a busy climbing area nearly year-round, remains open but various campgrounds as well as snow play areas are “closed due to human waste issues and lack of staffing.”

On the Yosemite Twitter, officials said a “lack of the restrooms and resulting impacts from human waste” forced the closure of the campgrounds. “People entering closed areas are being cited,” the tweet said.

“It’s really a big deal for Joshua Tree,” said Kristen Brengel, vice president of government affairs for the National Parks Conservation Association, of the campground closings. “This is a very popular season for people that come there.

“People are bringing in dogs and drones and there are instances where people aren’t following the rules and it is not good for the wildlife and the environment.

Joshua Tree Superintendent David Smith, in a statement, thanked the “local businesses, volunteer groups, and tribal members” who have stepped up to collect trash and maintain grounds during the shutdown.

“This is reflection on their efforts and the part is very fortunate to have a community that exhibits the kind of care and concern witnessed over the last week,” he said.

The partial government shutdown entered its 11th day on Tuesday, with few indications the government will reopen in the immediate future. Thousands of federal workers have been furloughed during the shutdown.

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